NPR logo 'The Simpsons' Turns 20: A Brief But Pointed Survey


'The Simpsons' Turns 20: A Brief But Pointed Survey

Here are The Simpsons in their first episode, which aired 20 years ago today. Fox hide caption

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On December 17, 1989, Fox aired "Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire," the first episode of its new animated series not really for kids with yellow people and pointy hair and ... it really doesn't seem like that thing can possibly be successful, does it?

Twenty years later, we still have The Simpsons, and this is their 20th birthday (as a regular series). Whether you fall into the "they should have ended it long ago" camp or the "hey, it's still a lot better than Hank" camp, or the much smaller "I think it only got better as it aged!" camp, you probably hear many, many Simpsons-inspired utterances in your day-to-day life, even if you don't know you do.

(Take, for instance, my friend's eight-year-old son, now enjoying the show on DVD, who recently said, "Dad, every time I watch The Simpsons, I find out why you and mom say things.")

So I ask you, in honor of this important day, to answer three questions:

1. Of all the episodes of The Simpsons that exist, how many do you think you have actually watched? There are something like 450 total, which is ... pretty staggering.

2. If you have snagged useful turns of phrase from this show, which do you consider the most indispensable? Not the cutest or the funniest, necessarily, but which one is most useful as you go about the business of your day-to-day life?

Homer and Poochie. Fox hide caption

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As a person who analyzes a lot of entertainment content, I'd have to go with the plaintive, "When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?" from "The Itchy And Scratchy And Poochie Show." As a way to convey that you cannot understand why the movie you are watching will not get to the point already, it is so useful that I once had two unacquainted friends use it about exactly the same movie when describing it to me. (I believe it was the Peter Jackson King Kong.)

3. If you could banish one Simpsons-ism from the Earth so that you never, ever had to hear it ever again, which one would you choose? (Yes, I will accept "Tiredest. Construction. Ever.") (You can also take a poll here about your favorite character, so feel free to choose Comic Book Guy.)

After the jump: D'oh.